I have recently returned from a research trip program of Africa Study Visit to Ghana as part of my academic requirement for the University of Bradford. These visits are mainly targeted to one of the post-conflict Sub-Saharan African Countries, which allow students broaden their understanding and experiences of the complexities involved in conflict prevention and post-conflict peace building in Africa.
Ghana is one of the peaceful African countries with democratic government that lies on the Gulf of Guinea and forms part of the West African Region. The capital city is Accra. Other major towns are Kumasi, Tamale and the ports of Cape Coast. Its population is estimated about Twenty Six million people as per (2013) population census. The official language of the country is English though over hundred native languages are also locally spoken.
Like Somalia, Ghana had long-standing, inter-ethnic conflicts with varying nature and dynamics. Most of these conflicts arise from traditional chieftaincy disputes, land issues, natural resource ownership and struggle for power. Each of these conflicts is shrouded by political domination, and a culture of maintaining power that resulted in instability and weakened the state of affairs.
For nearly two decades, Northern Ghana struggled repeated ethno-political violence that cost loss of lives and great deal of resources. While some of these conflicts were managed properly to bring peace and reconciliation, some of them degenerated into seasonal ‘rituals’ and become protracted.
Conflicts are naturally inevitable, and as people interact each other, disagreements and differences over issues arise. Such differences could result at engaging into violent clashes. Therefore, it is very important to build peace infrastructure and prevent or mitigate the occurrences of clashes within the communities.
During my trip I was keenly observing what systems worked well in Ghana that reduced the recurrent inter-conflicts in the country. And it is interesting to mention some of the methods they have employed to build working peace infrastructure in Ghana.
National Peace Architecture/Council
Ghana’s national peace architecture, particularly its National Peace Council, is mainly national body whose focus is to raise awareness of non-violent strategies in response to conflicts through campaigning, coordinating and networking. The national peace council consists of thirteen members that represent different religions, political and social groups. This initiative has documented as an important emerging model for improving state capacity to protect civilians from conflict outbreaks. It also enhanced national security, constitutional building, good governance and democracy.
Early Warning System
There is an early warning security system in Ghana that focuses on obtaining first hand information and using it to plan interventions to mitigate conflict. The system uses informed sources that solely care on human security. This early warning system has three strategic goals that are prevention, preparedness and mitigation. It serves to identify the cause of the conflict, predict and seek strategic actions to mitigate its impact. This system links local peace building organizations, civil society, and law enforcement to timely monitor and alert the risks.
Inclusive Stakeholder Partnership
In Ghana, there is an active inclusive peace partnership among stakeholders including government, traditional authority, political parties, media and civil society. Government is the main stakeholder of this partnership and it is responsibility is conflict prevention and peace building system in the country. Local traditional elders spread the word of peace through their clan influence while media and civil society take the lead in promoting and educating communities on peace and resilience initiatives. Therefore, that is why it is called inclusive partnership that takes effective measures in mediating and resolving conflicts.
The concept of peace assumes that society is an interdependent and each one has a role or obligation to contribute toward peace. And thus peace is a collaborative activity that leads the interplay of functions by the rulers, the ruled and institutional structures. To tackle conflict, each needs to actively engage its responsibilities to enhance the wellbeing of the society.
Establishing national peace bodies, early warning systems and inclusive peace partnership is an important platform to proactively mitigate insecurity and adopting functional peace-building mechanisms. These lessons of Ghana could be replicated in our worn-torn country Somalia that may have the same conflict characteristics with Ghana.